Pterostylis nutans


Pterostylis: winged column
nutans: drooping

Common Name(s)

Nodding Greenhood Orchid

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Non Resident Native - Vagrant

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Non Resident Native - Vagrant
2004 - Non Resident Native - Vagrant


2012 - SO
2009 - SO


Pterostylis nutans R.Br.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class



Pterostylis matthewsii Cheeseman


Indigenous. recorded three times, originally from Pukemiro Hill near Kaitaia (between 1914 and 1920), from Castor Bay, Whangaparaoa Peninsula (1942) and most recently from Waihaha, Hauhangaroa Range in 1995


In New Zealand this species has been found growing in coastal shrublands, open clay ground and in dense Podocarp forest on the margin of a walking track. In Australia is it widespread in a variety of early successional to climax community habitats.


Terrestrial orchid forming colonies. Plants up to 300 mm tall. Stem internodes equal to or much larger than bracts. Rosette leaves 5-10 or more; petiole conspicuous, narrowly winged; leaf lamina 15-30 x 10-20 mm, light green to dark green, oblong-ovate, acute to subacute, margins unuldating or finely crenate; cauline leaves 1-3, sheathing, bract-like. Flower solitary, usually close to but sometimes remote from subtending bract; top of stem and ovary strongly arched over so that flower faces downwards or even incurves toward stem. Dorsal sepal 25 mm tall, rounded, apex acute,lateral sepals very shortly connate, diverging at narrow angle, apices acuminate and hardly overtopping galea, surface minutely rugulose. Petals more or less equal to dorsal sepal, acute. Labellum irritable, narrow-triangular, strongly arched, protruding, apex subacute, margins slight incurved, finely covered in bristly hairs. Column much shorter than labellum; stigma elliptic.

Similar Taxa

A very distinctive species whose large nodding flowers immediately distinguish it from any other indigenous species. The narrowly-petiolate, oblong-ovate rosette leaves with undulating, crenate margins are also unique to this species.


July - October

Flower Colours



September - February

Propagation Technique

This species is easily cutlivated. Indeed plants of Australian origin are held by several orchid specialists in the country. Although it requires a specific insect pollination vector, it can be hand pollinated and it also spreads asexually through natural division of its tubers. Because of its wide cultivation in many parts of the country reports of wild occurrences need to be critically examined as people have been known to deliberately plant this species into the wild in the mistaken belief that they are helping save it from extinction.


Both Kaitaia and Castor Bay populations were probably wiped out by botanists (certainly the Kaitaia population was collected from repeatedly until there were no plants left). However, this species is insect-pollinated, and the insect vectors responsible for successful pollination are not present in New Zealand. It is for this reason that it is listed as a vagrant, for without Human intervention it would be unlikely to form and set viable seed.

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2007: Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970).

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. II. Government Printer, Wellington.

This page last updated on 31 Oct 2014